Still image capture by the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual utilizing the standard photographic camera. The image is of a wildland fire, and much of the fire progression is obscured by smoke. Submitted photos
Fire District #1 of Johnson County, Kansas is expanding its capabilities in the area of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) commonly referred to as Drones.
For the last year and a half Fire District #1 has had sUAS capabilities to support fire department operations. The sUAS flow by fire district personnel provided an eye in the sky view for incident commanders with video and still images. Recently, Fire District #1 expands those capabilities to include a new aircraft with Infrared Capabilities (IR).
“The capabilities of this new aircraft provide us images using heat signatures. This allows us to locate hot spots at fires, locate people and a multitude of other uses,” said Trig Morley, battalion chief. Morley is one of four pilots with Fire District #1 who are FAA Licensed to fly these drones. “By adding the IR capabilities it allows us to make the sUAS a useful tool when we might have been blind before, Morley continued. “Our original aircraft provides pictures and videos, but those depend on ambient light. With IR we can see when our other aircraft was blind. Like after dark.”
sUAS are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and require agencies such as Fire District #1 to register their aircraft and certify pilots to operate them. The FAA also is the authority on where people can and can’t fly sUAS.
“Since much of our fire district is in controlled airspace we had to apply for a waiver that authorizes us to operate within that airspace,” said Morley.
sUAS has been widely adopted by all the public safety agencies across the nation. It allows a public safety agency to extend the field of view in a very cost-effective and safe way. “We can fly a drone into a hazardous environment and see what is happening without having to expose people to any risks. We can go in and get information to help us make a decision on what our next steps should be,” Morley said. “If we damage an aircraft doing that, we can easily replace it. We cannot be that risky with our people.”
Fire District #1 operates two registered sUAS. They are both manufactured by DJI. The original drone is a Phantom 4 Pro. This aircraft provides the ability to capture pictures and video. The new aircraft is a Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual. While this aircraft is smaller than the Phantom 4 Pro it offers the ability to capture picture and video is both a standard format and IR.
Morley sums it up like this, “We believe in operating simple, cost-effective aircraft to reduce the risk to our personnel and provide that best data to decision makers for a positive outcome.”
For more information on Fire District #1 of Johnson County or to learn more about their sUAS program, you can contact Battalion Chief Trig Morley at 913-764-7635.